Ryan Hoag, the depressing No. 262 pick of the NFL Draft, is "Mr. Irrelevant." The receiver from Minnesota's Gustavus Aldophus College was the last player selected — by the Raiders.

Before considering a short leap from a high window, he should call up BYU's Tevita Ofahengaue, who earned similar honors in 2001.

Ofahengaue, who also had a gut-wrenching, awful draft day, would cheer up young Hoag. He'd tell him he's in store for a lot of fun, some great recognition, introduction to some "connected" people, including Hall of Fame types.

Ofahengaue played one year for Arizona before going to Jacksonville for one game. He's had some NFL teams call his number, the latest an Indianapolis Colts inquiry this past weekend, but his playing days may be over. NFL?

"I'm tired of the mind games, and I'm ready to move on," he says.

The experience of being Mr. Irrelevant, however, will live forever for the 27-year old Tongan.

"Hey, half the guys at Arizona or Jacksonville I played with who weren't taken by the fifth round would have preferred to be Mr. Irrelevant, the last guy," Ofahengaue said.

Mr. Irrelevant Week in Newport Beach, Calif., is something special. From big dinners to golf tournaments and other outings, Mr. Irrelevant is the toast of the town.

Ofahengaue remembers stepping off the plane — even flight attendants knew his name — and being welcomed to the city. He was a guest at Dennis Rodman's restaurant, invited to Rodman's house and met some of the NFL's greatest including Jerry Rice. He had an invitation to the L.A. Lakers' championship parade celebration.

Because he was the first Mr. Irrelevant honored who was married, he didn't receive the customary Rolex watch. Instead, his wife Carey received a $10,000 diamond necklace. He got an NFL watch — direct from commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Ofahengaue was 25 and father to four children when the Arizona Cardinals drafted him 246th in the 2001 draft. He made headlines because he'd been out of football from 1992 through 1996.

In 1991 he got married and was living in Dallas working for American Airlines when his parents insisted he walk on and play at BYU. He had to be convinced to give it a try because he hadn't played a down since high school at Hawaii's Kahuku High several years prior.

In three years for the Cougars, Tevita played two on scholarship and caught 62 passes for 853 yards and four touchdowns.

Besides Tevita, one other Utah collegian was the NFL draft's Mr. Irrelevant since the program began 28 years ago. Weber State tight end Cam Quayle earned the distinction in 1998. He played for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe before going back to school. He is now in dental school in Virginia.

Ofahengaue — whose kids are now 11, 9, 5 and 3 — has the distinction of having the most children when honored. The committee shifted plans for the celebration week for Mr. Irrelevant to include Disneyland. Tevita had his parents in from Hawaii, plus his brothers and sisters, some nephews and nieces and his in-laws also traveled to Anaheim. There were more than 35 family members in the deal — all expenses paid except for airfare.

"It was a blast," Ofahengaue said.

Today, Tevita lives in Provo. He'll be working as a coach in the Japan Pro Bowl and hopes to get a job as a coach in Japan's professional league. He's working on his master's degree and says if a local university hired him around here, he could deliver any Hawaii kid they wanted from his home state.

Right now, he's not working, "Just cruising, living on my savings," he said.

His story is one of irrelevance, he says. "I should never have ended up where I did. Are you kidding me? I wasn't going to play football beyond high school and never should have ended up at BYU or got drafted, but I did.

"I'm grateful for everything I have. It was special."

Mr. Irrelevant? Not for his family.

Carey, who is working on a nursing degree while employed in a business dealing with troubled youths, says it all makes Tevita special.

"He's not irrelevant to me," she said. "No, not at all, and it's all been worth it, every bit."


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